Trouble In Nicaragua
We made a point to book it in and out as fast as we could. We knew it would take three hours to get to the next border which was Nicaragua. We were more than halfway there, and did not want anything to get in our way.
Meanwhile, I had my parents in Texas telling us that we should take our time and do some sightseeing. Little did they know what was going on and what we were experiencing first hand. I didn't have the heart to tell them. I knew that would do us no good. Each day I would text, letting them know where we were and what our stopping destination would be.
Negative Vibes and Machetes
I had a good friend that kept up with our trip day by day asking how we were doing. Mostly excited, I would reply back with our daily adventures letting her know we were okay. This time, I text her first, letting her know we were in Honduras and couldn't believe the negative vibes we were getting from the locals.
At one point I could see us getting cut up with a machete and our parts being scattered .. and that is that absolute truth! That was when I told her that if I didn't text or call her within three hours, to please call my parents and let them know what was happening. I gave her my parents numbers just in case. I can definitely see how people 'go missing' and I didn't want us to be one of them.
It shouldn't be this way
I gave myself an extra hour just in case we lost service and I couldn't get ahold of her. The last thing I needed was for me to lose signal and go over my three hours only to have everyone panicking. Having children of my own, it pulled heartstrings when we witnessed young little boys (younger than my kids, 8, 10) who would carry stacks of wood over their backs, trying to balance the wood on their heads down the highway while walking uphill. I felt a sense of sadness for those kids. While mine were outside playing in the snow (yes, it snowed in Texas!) actually being kids, these kids were working, harder than I have seen some adults. We passed children standing on the highway, holding what looked like strings of fish. We didn't realize they were holding dead iguanas, two or three in each hand.
They lined the street hoping to make some sells. One child standing every so many hundred feet. My mouth flung open in disbelief once we realized what they were. While I have heard that some people would eat iguanas, (they supposedly taste like chicken) back in the day, I never in my wildest thoughts would have guessed we would see them being sold for food .. now, during this day and age. For a good ten minutes, those kids and what they were being taught flooded my mind. The same iguanas we saw being sold, were the ones that we see daily when in Costa Rica running around looking for a warm place to bathe in the sun. The same ones I see tourist scrambling to get their cameras out to get a quick snapshot before it scurries off.
Runners, Cash and more Cash!
My heart hurt. Looking at the clock, we knew we were getting close to the border. Two border crossings .. in one day? Ouch. Stressful to the max. However much we were not looking forward to this, we knew we were in it together, like we had been the entire trip. Surprisingly enough, no matter how stressed we were, neither of us cracked and got upset with the other. We were one.
When we had crossed into Honduras from El Salvador, the runner had given us the name of a man we would meet when we got to the Honduras / Nicaragua border. Someone who would be able to help us across. He knew what kind of vehicle we were driving so he would be looking for us, as well as us looking for him. Low and behold we saw two men on motorbikes and we slowed down to see if this was our guy. Lucky, or unlucky (however you see it) enough, it was him and we knew the drill.
We pull to the side in order to exchange information. We were still in Honduras and still didn't feel quite right, so we asked if we could pull into a gas station before handing him anything over. Like in El Salvador, they had armed men walking around the store inside and out. We knew if there was a problem, maybe they would be the ones that could help. We pull off to the side of the gas station and exchange the papers we had, passports, truck registration etc for his license. They would often give us their information (license, or working permit), so that we knew (or felt more comfortable) in knowing they weren't just going to take our information and run off at any given time. (Which I'm sure has happened in the past.)
We realized what the last border crossing cost us, so we wanted to be ahead of the game on this one. We told the men up front that we knew the restrictions and what we needed to enter the county so we could be on top of their game. And still, we were told the same story again. 'You cannot pass through my country without the title of the vehicle'. By far, this was the most expensive crossing yet. $800 USD.
We then realized, that they must have told him what we had paid at the previous border (being a man they sent us to directly). Here we were, with a years savings and watching it literally fly out the window into these crooks pockets, absolutely killed us. While the man proceeds to do whatever they do in order to get us along, we sat with our emotions going from happy to sad to sacred to not being sure if we would ever make it to Costa Rica.
Mentally and Emotionally Exhausted
BJ decided to call the kids. And for the first time in both of our lives, we weren't sure if we'd ever see them again. At the sight of the kids on the other line, tears began to flow down BJ's cheeks. I still didn't want any bad thoughts going on in their minds, so I quickly grabbed the phone while holding BJ's head against my shoulder, hugging him. We quickly told the kids we loved them and that we would call them when we got into Nicaragua and found a place to stay for the night.
For a slight moment, I almost felt like I was lying to them. We didn't know where we would end up. Here I was, relying on my husband to protect me, yet I was trying to help him. I knew I couldn't lose him then. We were almost there. So close. We had to stay focused and keep our eye on the prize. Deep breathes and a few drinks of water later, I had him back, physically and mentally. We were golden.
No Thank you, Amigo!
As the man is going to and from the border, we get the money out and handy so we can make it a quick exchange and can keep it moving. Not but about 20 minutes later, he was back and we were ready to go. We paid the man our dues and tell ourselves that at the next border, we are doing it ourselves. No matter what. The runner on the Honduras side could not cross into Nicaragua, and so there we were handed another runner. We were already done with them and their money scavenging.
In between borders, and nowhere to go
By this time, we told them to back off and that we had it. We followed everyone else and parked our truck on the Nicaragua side border. We had been stamped out of Honduras, but needed to be stamped in Nicaragua. We knew we had one more country to go. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel. We waited in the lines and tried to take notice of what others in front of us were doing, so when it was our turn, we would do the right thing.
Finally, it was our turn and we proudly hand over our passports. The man behind the counter scans them onto his computer. Normally by this time, we would have gotten our stamps and proceeded on. Taking him longer than what we had seen the previous guests, we wonder if we should have let the runner help us, or if it was something we said to the runner that we shouldn't have. The man then slides our passports to the side of his desk and directs us to a waiting area.
Not a single person spoke English, not one single one. We remembered that there was a lady at the border, working with the border patrol, but in between the Honduras / Nicaragua side that checked our passports on the way out, and she spoke English. We remembered her, because it had been like a breath of fresh air, knowing we could speak to her and she could speak to us, not questioning what was being said. How lovely would it have been had she been here for us to ask what was going on.
People would enter the building, while others would exit. We .. just sat there. We didn't know if the truck would be allowed to enter. We didn't know if it would have to sit at the border. We assumed, like before, it had something to do with the truck title and that was what was stopping us. Next to where we were told to sit, was a glass office. The only part that wasn't covered up to see in was the door you walk through. We would see one person at a time being asked to enter. We tried asking the security officer that was standing by the front door, why we were being held. He would just place his hand in front of him making a calm down motion and kept pointing to the seats in the corner for us to return to.
Looks like we're in trouble!
We waited for a good three hours before being called in. I knew they were taking one person at a time, so it didn't catch me off guard for BJ to be called in by himself while I waited. Lucky for me a gentleman came and sat right next to me, only to have his turn in line also. The first thing I asked was if he spoke English. I had such a huge sigh of relief when he answered yes. Neither of us knew why we had been placed in this area, or what we would have to do in order to get out. We just knew we were all on their time, and couldn't go anywhere fast.
I've never been in trouble with the law in my home country, much less in a country I knew nothing about or didn't speak my language. Being able to see through the glass entrance door to the office, I leaned forward so I could see BJ's face to try and read what was being said. His face did not look good by any means. It looked like we were in trouble. And I had no idea how to get us out.